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Cadaver Dog Training



All classes are held on the campus of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC.

Additional courses for Summer / Fall 2024 will be announced soon

Water Recovery of Human Remains
March 22-24, 2024  |  Limit 12 teams  |  $490.00

REGISTER ONLINE  - Opens Feb. 1 at 8:00 EST

While a variety of boats are allocated to course instruction, student capacity will be limited to a small number of HRD K9 handlers due to the duration it takes with each dog/handler in water craft situations.   This will give more one-on-one time for instruction when the class size is lower.

The cost of the course will be $490 per K9, and includes lunch at lake(s) on Friday and Saturday, as well as a WCU Water Recovery K9 Training T-shirt.

While we will have a “socialization” boat available to build the confidence of the K9 and handler, it is expected that the working dog that attends this course has had previous exposure and comfort in water crafts as well as has been imprinted on human remains in water sources, and has a fully-trained final response. 

While K9s and handlers with less experience to water recovery searches are allowed to attend this training, the expectation of the handler should match the experience of the K9 for this advanced course.  For example, if the K9 does not recognize the odor of human remains in water, nor has a final trained response, nor is acclimated to water crafts most of the time will have to be given to accomplishing those tasks during this training. 

Cadaver Dog Training - Level One*
(With special sponsored dock diving opportunity on campus)
April 12-14, 2024   |   Limit 18 Teams  |   $490.0

This course is at full capacity. Registration is now closed.

This course is designed to focus on the foundation work for beginner HRD canines.  It can also  serve as a reinforcement of foundations and source exposure for the more advanced K9s.   Both groups are welcomed. We will group K9s accordingly while working human remains, buried remains, bone fragment, as well as other lower threshold source materials. Part of the course will focus on search theory and best practices for successful case recoveries.  Included with this course will be classroom lectures including actual case reviews of successful recoveries.  Instructors will share “lesson’s learned” on actual cases.

The training will include classwork on the basics of the K9 olfactory system and scent detection work, and the reinforcement of how to limit handler error and intentional and unintentional cuing.  A focus of our training is to develop the working K9 to be able to detect, and give a final response at source independently and confidentially on its own.  Odor recognition, commitment to odor, and clear final responses of the K9 will be a focus.

* As an added bonus, this course will include a specially sponsored dock diving opportunity. More details will be made available soon. 

One K9 per one handler, lunch will be provided on Friday and Saturday.  The course is limited to the first 18 K9 teams to register, and a couple of spots are available for observers by special permission at $250.00.  

Burned Human Remains HRD K9 Training
May 17-19, 2024  |   Limit 15 teams   |  $490.00

REGISTER ONLINE - Opens February 23 at 8:00 AM EST

This course is available ONLY to law enforcement, fire, and formal emergency response personnel with human remains detection canines. Documentation of agency affiliation will be required for all participants for this specific training. This class will include a hands-on component using a controlled-burn scene with human remains.  Be mindful that negative emotions “carry down the leash” to the K9, so if you are not well prepared for the actual scientific process of burning remains, then we recommend that you please join us in one of our many other cadaver K9 trainings planned for spring, summer, and fall of 2024.  We can also host small agency training for small groups- as scheduling allows.

This course builds on previous WCU HRD K9 Trainings with Dr. Briggs and Edwin Grant and is dedicated to advancing HRD K9 recovery abilities for cases involving accidental or purposively deaths of victims by fire. It is expected that the K9 (and handler) have experience in odor detection of human remains, and the K9 have a solid final response/indication.  While the focus of the course will be on the recovery of full body burned cadaver, cremains, burned tissue, and burned bone fragment, training will also occur on campus as well as other training facilities in the Western North Carolina.

* Limited spots are available for observers in Law Enforcement and Professional Emergency Responders at $250 (by special permission). Email to inquire.

*Official credentials will be required for verification at time of registration for anyone wanting to participate.

“Do not expect a HRD K9 to recovery that which it has not been imprinted on, nor expect it to give a reliable and accurate final response if it has not been well trained on the many VOCs of actual human decomposition.”  -- Dr. Lisa Briggs


Thanks to the many cadaver donors who have given their remains in the name of science to Western Carolina University, the craft of training human remains detection dogs is possible.


Western Carolina University's Cadaver Dog Training Workshops are held on the main campus in Cullowhee, North Carolina and surrounding areas. The workshops are offered in cooperation with the Emergency and Disaster Management Program at WCU.

These land-based workshops allow participants to work search areas including grassy fields, mountainous terrain, urban environments, buildings, and vehicles. Participants will have the opportunity to work a wide range of source materials.

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